Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) has introduced a bill, H.R. 740 (the “Robo Calls Off Phones Act” or “Robo COP Act”), to “stop the intrusion of political robocalls in homes across America.” Rep. Foxx stated that “politicians made sure to exempt political robo-calls from the power of the ‘Do Not Call’ registry. If these calls weren’t such a nuisance, their blatant exclusion would be laughable.” Claiming that eligible voters receive more than 20 political prerecorded voice calls per day, Rep. Foxx seeks through the bill to end the “robocall loophole” for politicians.
Consumers Union, the consumer advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, has filed a letter in support of the National Consumer Law Center’s (NCLC) request that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stay its recent ruling on Broadnet Teleservices LLC’s Petition for Declaratory Ruling in the on-going rulemaking matter In re Rules and Regulations Implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 while that ruling is under appeal. The July 5, 2016, Broadnet Ruling (previously discussed here) held that the TCPA, and its ban on autodialed calls to cellular telephones, does not apply to calls placed by the federal government itself, or its contractors, so long as the calls are placed in the course of conducting “official government business” and, for calls placed by contractors, the calls comply with the government’s instructions. On July 26, 2016, the NCLC moved the FCC to reconsider its ruling and stay its effect until the motion is resolved. Consumers Union is joining the request for the stay as part of its “End Robocalls” campaign, which purportedly seeks “technological solutions to the unwanted robocall problem,” according to the group’s letter to the FCC. If the requested stay is granted, federal government employees and contractors will continue to be subject to the TCPA unless the Broadnet Ruling is upheld.
Safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the national airspace is one of the foremost policy challenges of 2016. But while Capitol Hill has largely focused on the regulatory efforts of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), developments overseas will also shape the future of the dynamic UAS industry in the year ahead.
Just before the end of the year, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) released its technical framework for UAS regulation across the 28 member states of the European Union. The framework will serve as the basis for rule-making activities at the EU and member-state levels in 2016 and 2017.
By Stephen J. Matzura and Marty Stern
On the heels of a consent decree with a services provider imposing a $750,000 penalty for its Wi-Fi management practices at convention center venues, the FCC slammed another services provider earlier this week for allegedly blocking Wi-Fi access at the Baltimore Convention Center. In a Commission-level Notice of Apparent Liability (“NAL”), the FCC proposed a $718,000 penalty against M.C. Dean, Inc. for allegedly blocking access to third-party Wi-Fi hotspots during at least 26 days in November and December 2014 at the venue, “apparently” in violation of Section 333 of the Communications Act.
On August 3th, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration held the first in a series of “multi-stakeholder meetings” among participants in the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS, a.k.a. drones) industry to help create possible industry guidelines on privacy, transparency, and accountability issues. As we discussed here, the meetings are being held pursuant to President Obama’s February 15, 2015 Presidential Memorandum. The purpose of the first meeting was to discuss high-priority issues to be addressed during the process, and logistics regarding the best way to address the issues – including through the establishment of working groups and concrete goals. Future meetings have been scheduled for September 24th, October 21st, and November 20th.
As originally published in Law360
On Friday, July 10, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission issued its much-anticipated Declaratory Ruling and Order clarifying numerous aspects of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The commission had adopted the order at a particularly contentious June 18, 2015 open meeting (see earlier post), which one commissioner called “a farce” and another described as “a new low … never seen in politics or policymaking.”
In an unusual move, the commission made the order effective on its July 10 release date, rather than following publication in the Federal Register as is typical, providing companies with no opportunity to digest the order and adjust business practices accordingly.
As expected, the order largely brushes aside legitimate business concerns and a sensible approach to TCPA regulation in favor of findings that potentially increase risk for businesses in a variety of circumstances, including the possibility of increased class action litigation. In addition, beyond clarifying that carriers may offer call-blocking technologies to consumers, the order offers little to actually protect consumers from scam telemarketing schemes, including offshore “tele-spammers” that use robocalling or phone-number spoofing technologies.
As originally published in Law360
At its June 18, 2015, open meeting, a sharply divided Federal Communications Commission made good on Chairman Tom Wheeler’s recent promise to bolster the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s already strict rules and to bring about “one of the most significant FCC consumer protection actions since it established the Do-Not-Call Registry with the FTC in 2003.” While plaintiffs’ class action lawyers are likely to applaud the new measures, businesses are concerned that the new rules could unfairly restrict legitimate communications with customers.
Congress enacted the TCPA in 1991 to address what it perceived as the growing problem of unsolicited telemarketing with technologies such as fax machines, pre-recorded voice messages and automatic dialing systems. The TCPA requires anyone making a call to a wireless line using autodialer or pre-recorded voice-call technologies to obtain the “called party’s” “prior express consent,” and, following a 2012 FCC decision, “prior express written consent” for calls that introduce advertising or constitute telemarketing. Similarly, under that ruling, calls to residential lines using an artificial/pre-recorded voice that introduce advertising or constitute telemarketing require the called party’s prior express written consent. Read More
By Stephen J. Matzura and Marty Stern
The FCC has adopted new rules governing accessibility of emergency information in TV programming for blind or visually impaired individuals. The rules require emergency information on TV to be available in audio format on mobile devices when subscription television providers permit consumers to access televised programming using mobile apps.
Under the FCC’s current rules adopted in a 2013 Report and Order pursuant to the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, emergency information that interrupts regular TV programming must be accompanied by an aural tone and be available on a secondary audio stream. The new rules require these secondary audio streams to be available “on tablets, smartphones, laptops, and similar devices when subscription television providers, such as cable and satellite operators, permit consumers to access programming over their networks using an app on these devices.” According to the FCC, this will allow blind or visually impaired individuals who hear the aural tones on TV to switch to a secondary audio stream on such devices.
The new rules also require TV equipment that receives or plays back programming (e.g., set-top boxes) to have an activation mechanism that allows blind or visually impaired users to easily switch to a secondary audio stream to hear the emergency information. In partial dissents, Commissioners Pai and O’Rielly disagree that the FCC has authority under the CVAA to require mechanisms on set top boxes and similar devices to activate the secondary audio stream.
The FCC also adopted a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to solicit comments on a number of issues, including coordination of multiple on-screen announcements, whether school-related information should be made available on the audio streams, and potential requirements for multichannel video programming distributors.
What Does It Mean for Your Business?
K&L Gates will present a webinar on May 12 discussing the EU’s Digital Single Market strategy, which was released last week by the European Commission. The webinar is at 15:00 BST / 16:00 CEST / 10:00 EDT. Register here to get log-in instructions.
The objective of this strategy is to tear down the regulatory obstacles to doing business online, and it will pose potential major challenges as well as opportunities for almost every company doing business in the EU. According to the European Commission the reforms could add €415bn per year to the European economy. The strategy is built on three pillars:
- better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe;
- creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services to flourish;
- maximising the growth potential of the digital economy.